Kentucky was admitted into the Union as the 15th state on June 1, 1792, splitting from Virginia
in the process.
It is known as the "Bluegrass State", a nickname based on Kentucky bluegrass
, a species of grass found in many of its pastures, which has supported the thoroughbred horse industry in the center of the state.
The state is home to the world's longest cave system: Mammoth Cave National Park
, as well as the greatest length of navigable waterways and streams in the contiguous United States
and the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi River
. Kentucky is also known for horse racing
, "My Old Kentucky Home"
historic state park, automobile manufacturing
, bluegrass music
, college basketball
, Louisville Slugger baseball bats
, Kentucky Fried Chicken
, and the Kentucky colonel
Others have suggested the term Kenta Aki
, which could have come from an Algonquian language
and was possibly derived from Shawnee
. Folk etymology translates this as "Land of Our Fathers". The closest approximation in another Algonquian language, Ojibwe
, translates as "Land of Our In-Laws", thus making a fairer English translation "The Land of Those Who Became Our Fathers".
In any case, the word aki
means "land" in most Algonquian languages. Some also theorize that the name Kentucky may be a corruption of the word Catawba, in reference to the Catawba
people who inhabited Kentucky.
Native American settlement
It is not known exactly when the first humans arrived in what is now Kentucky. Based on the evidence in other regions, humans were likely living in Kentucky prior to 10,000 BCE, but "archaeological evidence of their occupation has yet to be documented".
Around 1800 BCE, a gradual transition began from a hunter-gatherer economy to agriculturalism. Around 900 CE, a Mississippian culture
took root in western and central Kentucky; by contrast, a Fort Ancient culture
appeared in eastern Kentucky. While the two had many similarities, the distinctive ceremonial earthwork mounds constructed in the former's centers were not part of the culture of the latter.
In about the 10th century, the Kentucky native people's variety of corn became highly productive, supplanting the Eastern Agricultural Complex
, and replaced it with a maize-based agriculture in the Mississippian era
. French explorers in the 17th century documented numerous tribes living in Kentucky until the Beaver Wars
in the 1670s; however, by the time that European colonial explorers and settlers began entering Kentucky in greater numbers in the mid-18th century, there were no major Native American settlements in the region.
As of the 16th century, the area known as Kentucky was home to tribes from five different culture groups – Iroquoian, Sioux, Algonquian, Muskogean and Yuchi. Around the Bluestone River was the Siouan Tutelo
. North of the Tennessee River was the Yuchi
and south of it was the Cherokee
. Much of the interior of the state was controlled by the Algonquian Cisca
the confluence region of the Mississippi and Ohio was home to the Chickasaw
. During a period known as the Beaver Wars
, 1640–1680, another Algonquian tribe called the Maumee, or Mascouten
was chased out of southern Michigan.
The vast majority of them moved to Kentucky, pushing the Kispoko east and war broke out with the Tutelo that pushed them deeper into Appalachia, where they merged with the Saponi
and Moneton. The Maumee were closely related to the Miami of Indiana. Later, the Kispoko merged with the Shawnee (who broke off from the Powhatan on the east coast) and the Thawikila of Ohio to form the larger Shawnee
nation which inhabited the Ohio River Valley into the 19th century.
The Shawnee from the northeast and Cherokee from the south also sent parties into the area regularly for hunting.
In 1774 James Harrod founded the first permanent European settlement in Kentucky at the site of present-day Harrodsburg.
County of Kentucky and statehood
On Dec. 31, 1776, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly
, the portion of Fincastle County
west of the Appalachians extending to the Mississippi River, previously known as Kentucky (or Kentucke) territory, was split off into its own county of Kentucky
. Harrod's Town (Oldtown as it was known at the time) was named the county seat. The county was subdivided into Jefferson
Counties in 1780, but continued to be administered as the District of Kentucky even as new counties were split off.
On several occasions the region's residents petitioned the General Assembly and the Confederation Congress
for separation from Virginia and statehood
. Ten constitutional conventions were held in Danville
between 1784 and 1792. One petition, which had Virginia's assent, came before the Confederation Congress in early July 1788. Unfortunately, its consideration came up a day after word of New Hampshire
's all-important ninth ratification
of the proposed Constitution
, thus establishing it as the new framework of governance for the United States. In light of this development, Congress thought that it would be "unadvisable" to admit Kentucky into the Union, as it could do so "under the Articles of Confederation" only, but not "under the Constitution", and so declined to take action.
On December 18, 1789, Virginia again gave its consent to Kentucky statehood. The United States Congress
gave its approval on February 4, 1791.
(This occurred two weeks before Congress approved Vermont
's petition for statehood.
) Kentucky officially became the fifteenth state in the Union on June 1, 1792. Isaac Shelby
, a military veteran from Virginia, was elected its first Governor.
Relationship Between Native Americans and European Settlers
A 1790 U.S. government report states that 1,500 Kentucky settlers had been killed by Native Americans since the end of the Revolutionary War
As more settlers entered the area, warfare broke out with the Native Americans over their traditional hunting grounds.
Historian Susan Sleeper-Smith documents the role of Kentucky settlers in displacing Native American communities living in the northern Ohio River Valley during the late 18th century.
Central Kentucky, the bluegrass region, was the area of the state with the most slave owners
and hemp (see Hemp in Kentucky
) and were noted for their quality livestock
. During the 19th century, Kentucky slaveholders began to sell unneeded slaves to the Deep South
, with Louisville becoming a major slave market and departure port
for slaves being transported downriver.
Kentucky was one of
the border states
during the American Civil War
, and it remained part of the Union.
Despite this, representatives from 68 of 110 counties met at Russellville
calling themselves the "Convention of the People of Kentucky" and passed an Ordinance of Secession
on November 20, 1861.
They established a Confederate government of Kentucky
with its capital in Bowling Green
The Confederate shadow government was neither popularly elected statewide. Although Confederate forces briefly controlled Frankfort, they were expelled by Union forces before a Confederate government could be installed in the state capital. After the expulsion of Confederate forces after the Battle of Perrysville, this government operated in-exile. Though it existed throughout the war, Kentucky's provisional government had very little effect on the events in the Commonwealth or in the war.
Kentucky remained officially "neutral" throughout the war due to the Union
sympathies of a majority of the Commonwealth's citizens. Despite this, some 21st-century Kentuckians observe Confederate Memorial Day
leader Jefferson Davis
' birthday, June 3, and participate in Confederate battle re-enactments.
Both Davis and U.S. president Abraham Lincoln
were born in Kentucky. John C. Breckinridge
, the 14th and youngest-ever Vice President was born in Lexington, Kentucky at Cabell's Dale Farm. Breckenridge was expelled from the U. S. Senate for his support of the Confederacy. Modern historians such as Aaron Astor, Maryjean Wall, and Anne Marshall argue that many of Kentucky's white leaders and influential figures embraced a romanticized Southern identity, drawing from misleading and mythologized conceptions of the Old South and on the Lost Cause of the Confederacy
, in the decades following Reconstruction.
This phenomenon mirrors similar cultural trends in other states during the nadir of race relations.
The Black Patch Tobacco Wars
, a vigilante action, occurred in Western Kentucky in the early 20th century. As a result of the tobacco industry
monopoly, tobacco farmers in the area were forced to sell their crops at prices that were too low. Many local farmers and activists united in a refusal to sell their crops to the major tobacco companies.
An Association meeting occurred in downtown Guthrie
where a vigilante wing of "Night Riders", formed. The riders terrorized farmers who sold their tobacco at the low prices demanded by the tobacco corporations. They burned several tobacco warehouses throughout the area, stretching as far west as Hopkinsville
. In the later period of their operation, they were known to physically assault farmers who broke the boycott. Governor Augustus E. Willson
declared martial law
and deployed the Kentucky National Guard
to end the wars.
A map of Kentucky
Kentucky's northern border is formed by the Ohio River
and its western border by the Mississippi River
; however, the official border is based on the courses of the rivers as they existed when Kentucky became a state in 1792. For instance, northbound travelers on U.S. 41
from Henderson, after crossing the Ohio River, will be in Kentucky for about two miles (3.2 km). Ellis Park
, a thoroughbred racetrack, is located in this small piece of Kentucky. Waterworks Road is part of the only land border between Indiana and Kentucky.
Kentucky has a non-contiguous part known as Kentucky Bend
, at the far west corner of the state. It exists as an exclave
surrounded completely by Missouri
, and is included in the boundaries of Fulton County
. Road access to this small part of Kentucky on the Mississippi River (populated by 18 people as of 2010)
requires a trip through Tennessee.
The epicenter of the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes
was near this area, causing the Mississippi River to flow backwards in some places. Though the series of quakes changed the area geologically and affected the small number of inhabitants of the area at the time, the Kentucky Bend is the result of a surveying error, not the New Madrid earthquake.
Kentucky's regions (click on image for color-coding information)
The Bluegrass region is commonly divided into two regions, the Inner Bluegrass encircling 90 miles (140 km) around Lexington
, and the Outer Bluegrass that contains most of the northern portion of the state, above the Knobs
. Much of the outer Bluegrass is in the Eden Shale Hills
area, made up of short, steep, and very narrow hills.
Located within the southeastern interior portion of North America, Kentucky has a climate that is best described as a humid subtropical climate
), only small higher areas of the southeast of the state has an oceanic climate
) influenced by the Appalachians
Temperatures in Kentucky usually range from daytime summer highs of 87 °F (31 °C) to the winter low of 23 °F (−5 °C). The average precipitation is 46 inches (1,200 mm) a year.
Kentucky has four distinct seasons, with substantial variations in the severity of summer and winter.
The highest recorded temperature was 114 °F (46 °C) at Greensburg
on July 28, 1930, while the lowest recorded temperature was −37 °F (−38 °C) at Shelbyville
on January 19, 1994
. The state rarely experiences the extreme cold of far northern states, nor the high heat of the states in the Deep South
. Temperatures seldom drop below 0 degrees or rise above 100 degrees. Rain and snowfall totals about 45 inches per year.
The climate varies markedly within the state. The northern parts tend to be about five degrees cooler than those in the western parts of the state. Somerset
in the south-central part receives ten more inches of rain per year than, for instance, Covington
to the north. Average temperatures for the entire Commonwealth range from the low 30s in January to the high 70s in mid-July. The annual average temperature varies from 55 to 60 °F (13 to 16 °C): of 55 °F (13 °C) in the far north as an average annual temperature and of 60 °F (16 °C) in the extreme southwest.
In general, Kentucky has relatively hot, humid
, rainy summers, and moderately cold and rainy winters. Mean maximum temperatures in July vary from 83 to 90 °F (28 to 32 °C); the mean minimum July temperatures are 61 to 69 °F (16 to 21 °C). In January the mean maximum temperatures range from 36 to 44 °F (2 to 7 °C); the mean minimum temperatures range from 19 to 26 °F (−7 to −3 °C). Temperature means vary with northern and far-eastern mountain regions averaging five degrees cooler year-round, compared to the relatively warmer areas of the southern and western regions of the state. Precipitation also varies north to south with the north averaging of 38 to 40 inches (970 to 1,020 mm), and the south averaging of 50 inches (1,300 mm). Days per year below the freezing point vary from about sixty days in the southwest to more than a hundred days in the far-north and far-east.
Lakes and rivers
Kentucky has more navigable miles of water than any other state in the union, other than Alaska.
Though it has only three major natural lakes,
Kentucky is home to many artificial lakes
. Kentucky has both the largest artificial lake east of the Mississippi in water volume (Lake Cumberland
) and surface area (Kentucky Lake
). Kentucky Lake's 2,064 miles (3,322 km) of shoreline, 160,300 acres (64,900 hectares) of water surface, and 4,008,000 acre-feet
(4.9 billion cubic meters
) of flood storage are the most of any lake in the TVA
Kentucky's 90,000 miles (140,000 km) of streams provides one of the most expansive and complex stream systems in the nation.
Natural environment and conservation
Once an industrial wasteland, Louisville's reclaimed waterfront now features thousands of trees and miles of walking trails.
Kentucky has an expansive park system, which includes one national park, two National Recreation Areas, two National Historic Parks, two national forests
, two National Wildlife Refuges, 45 state parks
, 37,896 acres (153 km2
) of state forest, and 82 wildlife management areas
Kentucky has been part of two of the most successful wildlife reintroduction projects in United States history. In the winter of 1997, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
began to re-stock elk
in the state's eastern counties, which had been extinct from the area for over 150 years. As of 2009, the herd had reached the project goal of 10,000 animals, making it the largest herd east of the Mississippi River
The state also stocked wild turkeys
in the 1950s. There were reported to be fewer than 900 at one point. Once nearly extinct here, wild turkeys thrive throughout today's Kentucky.
Hunters officially reported a record 29,006 birds taken during the 23-day season in spring 2009.
In 1991 the Land Between the Lakes partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Red Wolf Recovery Program, a captive breeding program.
- Cumberland Gap, chief passageway through the Appalachian Mountains in early American history.
- Cumberland Falls, the only place in the Western Hemisphere where a "moonbow" may be regularly seen, due to the spray of the falls.
- Mammoth Cave National Park, featuring the world's longest known cave system.
- Red River Gorge Geological Area, part of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
- Land Between the Lakes, a National Recreation Area managed by the United States Forest Service.
- Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Whitley City.
- Black Mountain, state's highest point. Runs along the south ridge of Pine Mountain in Letcher County, Kentucky. The highest point located in Harlan County.
- Bad Branch Falls State Nature Preserve, 2,639-acre (11 km2) state nature preserve on southern slope of Pine Mountain in Letcher County. Includes one of the largest concentrations of rare and endangered species in the state, as well as a 60-foot (18 m) waterfall and a Kentucky Wild River.[clarification needed]
- Jefferson Memorial Forest, located in the southern fringes of Louisville in the Knobs region, the largest municipally run forest in the United States.
- Lake Cumberland, 1,255 miles (2,020 km) of shoreline located in South Central Kentucky.
- Natural Bridge, located in Slade, KentuckyPowell County.
- Breaks Interstate Park, located in southeastern Pike County, Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia. The Breaks is commonly known as the "Grand Canyon of the South".
Consolidated city-county governments
Kentucky's two most populous counties, Jefferson and Fayette, have their governments consolidated with the governments of their largest cities
. Louisville-Jefferson County Government
) and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government
) are unique in that their city councils and county Fiscal Court structures have been merged into a single entity with a single chief executive
, the Metro Mayor
and Urban County Mayor, respectively. Although the counties still exist as subdivisions of the state, in reference the names Louisville and Lexington are used to refer to the entire area coextensive with the former cities and counties. Somewhat incongruously, when entering Lexington-Fayette the highway signs read "Fayette County" while most signs leading into Louisville-Jefferson simply read "Welcome to Louisville Metro".
The Metro Louisville
government area has a 2018 population of 1,298,990. Under United States Census Bureau
methodology, the population of Louisville was 623,867. The latter figure is the population of the so-called "balance"
– the parts of Jefferson County that were either unincorporated or within the City of Louisville before the formation of the merged government in 2003. In 2018 the Louisville Combined Statistical Area
(CSA) had a population of 1,569,112; including 1,209,191 in Kentucky, which means more than 25% of the state's population now lives in the Louisville CSA. Since 2000, over one-third of the state's population growth has occurred in the Louisville CSA. In addition, the top 28 wealthiest places in Kentucky are in Jefferson County and seven of the 15 wealthiest counties in the state are located in the Louisville CSA.[not specific enough to verify]
The second-largest city is Lexington with a 2018 census population of 323,780, its metro had a population of 516,697, and its CSA
, which includes the Frankfort
statistical areas, having a population of 746,310. The Northern Kentucky
area, which comprises the seven Kentucky counties in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky metropolitan area
, had a population of 447,457 in 2018. The metropolitan areas of Louisville, Lexington, and Northern Kentucky have a combined population of 2,402,958 as of 2018, which is 54% of the state's total population on only about 19% of the state's land. This area is often referred to as the Golden triangle as it contains a majority of the state's wealth, population, population growth, and economic growth, it is also where most of the state's largest cities by population are located. It is referred to as the Golden triangle as the metro areas of Lexington, Louisville, and Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati outline a triangle shape. Interstates I-71, I-75, and I-64 form the triangle shape. Additionally, all counties in Kentucky that are part of an MSA or CSA have a total population of 2,970,694, which is 67% of the state's population.
The two other fast-growing urban areas in Kentucky are the Bowling Green
area and the "Tri-Cities Region" of southeastern Kentucky, comprising Somerset
Although only one town in the "Tri-Cities" (Somerset) currently has more than 12,000 people, the area has been experiencing heightened population and job growth since the 1990s. Growth has been especially rapid in Laurel County, which outgrew areas such as Scott and Jessamine counties around Lexington or Shelby and Nelson Counties around Louisville. London significantly grew in population in the 2000s, from 5,692 in 2000 to 7,993 in 2010. London also landed a Wal-Mart
distribution center in 1997, bringing thousands of jobs to the community.
In northeast Kentucky, the greater Ashland
area is an important transportation, manufacturing, and medical center. Iron
production, as well as the transport of coal by rail and barge
, have been historical pillars of the region's economy. Due to a decline in the area's industrial base, Ashland has seen a sizable reduction in its population since 1990; however, the population of the area has since stabilized with the medical service industry taking a greater role in the local economy. The Ashland area, including the counties of Boyd
, is part of the Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH, Metropolitan Statistical Area
(MSA). As of the 2000 census, the MSA had a population of 288,649. More than 21,000 of those people (as of 2010) reside within the city limits of Ashland.
Kentucky Population Density Map
As of July 1, 2016, Kentucky had an estimated population of 4,436,974, which is an increase of 12,363 from the prior year and an increase of 97,607, or 2.2%, since the year 2010. This includes a natural increase
since the last census of 73,541 people (that is 346,968 births minus 273,427 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 26,135 people into the state. Immigration
from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 40,051 people, and migration within the country produced a net decrease of 13,916 people. As of 2015, Kentucky's population included about 149,016 foreign-born persons (3.4%). In 2016 the population density of the state was 110 people per square mile (42.5/km2
Kentucky's population has grown during every decade since records have been kept. But during most decades of the 20th century there was also net out-migration from Kentucky. Since 1900, rural Kentucky counties have had a net loss of more than a million people to migration, while urban areas have experienced a slight net gain.
Race and ancestry
Kentucky racial breakdown of population
According to U.S. Census Bureau official statistics, the largest ancestry in 2013 was American
In 1980, before the status of ethnic American was an available option on the official census, the largest claimed ancestries in the commonwealth were English
(26.3%), and German
In the state's most urban counties of Jefferson
, and Campbell
, German is the largest reported ancestry. Americans of Scots-Irish
stock are present throughout the entire state. Many residents claim Irish ancestry because of known "Scots-Irish" among their ancestors, who immigrated from Ireland, where their ancestors had moved for a period from Scotland during the plantation period.
As of the 1980s, the only counties in the United States where over half of the population cited "English
" as their only ancestry group were in the hills of eastern Kentucky (virtually every county in this region had a majority of residents identifying as exclusively English in ancestry).
The Ridgetop Shawnee
organized in the early 21st century as a non-profit to gain structure for their community and increase awareness of Native Americans in Kentucky. In the 2000 census, some 20,000 people in the state identified as Native American (0.49%). In June 2011, Jerry "2 Feather" Thornton, a Cherokee
, led a team in the Voyage of Native American Awareness 2011 canoe journey, to begin on the Green River in Rochester, Kentucky
and travel through to the Ohio River at Henderson
African Americans, who were mostly enslaved at the time, made up 25% of Kentucky's population before the Civil War
; they were held and worked primarily in the central Bluegrass region
, an area of hemp and tobacco cultivation, as well as raising blooded livestock. The number of African Americans living in Kentucky declined during the 20th century. Many migrated during the early part of the century to the industrial North and Midwest during the Great Migration
for jobs and the chance to leave the segregated, oppressive societies. Today, less than 9% of the state's total population is African-American.
The state's African-American population is highly urbanized and 52% of them live in the Louisville metropolitan area; 44.2% of them reside in Jefferson County
. The county's population is 20% African American. Other areas with high concentrations, besides Christian and Fulton counties and the Bluegrass region, are the cities of Paducah
. Some mining communities in far Southeastern Kentucky have populations that are between five and 10 percent African-American.
In 2000 96.1% of all residents five years old and older spoke only English
at home, a decrease from 97.5% in 1990.
Speech patterns in the state generally reflect the first settlers' Virginia and Kentucky backgrounds. South Midland features are best preserved in the mountains, with Southern
in most other areas of Kentucky, but some common to Midland and Southern are widespread.
After a vowel, the /r/ may be weak or missing. For instance, Coop
has the vowel of put
, but the root rhymes with boot
. In southern Kentucky, earthworms are called redworms
, a burlap bag is known as a tow sack
or the Southern grass sack
, and green beans are called snap beans
. In Kentucky English, a young man may carry
, not escort, his girlfriend to a party.
is the second-most-spoken language in Kentucky, after English.
- 48% not affiliated with any religious group, 2,101,653 persons
- 42% Protestant Christian, 1,819,860 adherents
- 33% Evangelical Protestant, 1,448,947 adherents (23% within the Southern Baptist Convention, 1,004,407 adherents)
- 7.1% Mainline Protestant, 305,955 adherents (4.4% in the United Methodist Church, 189,596 adherents)
- 1.5% Black Protestant, 64,958 adherents
- 8.3% Catholic Church, 359,783 adherents
- 0.74% Latter-day Saints, 31,991 adherents
- 0.60% other religions, 26,080 adherents (0.26% Muslim, 0.16% Judaism, 0.06% Buddhism, 0.01% Hindu, other Christian, etc.)
In addition to seminaries, there are several colleges affiliated with denominations:
- In Louisville, Bellarmine University and Spalding University are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
- In Lexington, Transylvania University is affiliated with the Disciples of Christ.
- In Owensboro, Kentucky Wesleyan College is associated with the United Methodist Church, and Brescia University is associated with the Roman Catholic Church.
- In Pikeville, the University of Pikeville is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
- In Wilmore, Asbury University (a separate institution from the seminary) is associated with the Christian College Consortium.
- The Baptist denomination is associated with several colleges:
- Grayson in Carter County is home to Kentucky Christian University which is affiliated with the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
- The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani is located in Bardstown, Kentucky. Author Thomas Merton, known as a social activist, worked to reconcile Christianity with other major religions, had converted to Catholicism as a young man, and became a Trappist monk; he lived and worked here from 1941 until his death in 1968.
Louisville is home to the Cathedral of the Assumption
, the third-oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States. The city also holds the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
and their printing press. Reflecting late 19th, 20th and 21st-century immigration from different countries, Louisville also has Jewish
Early in its history, Kentucky gained recognition for its excellent farming conditions. It was the site of the first commercial winery
in the United States (started in present-day Jessamine County
in 1799) and due to the high calcium content of the soil in the Bluegrass region quickly became a major horse breeding (and later racing) area. Today Kentucky ranks 5th nationally in goat farming, 8th in beef cattle
and 14th in corn production.
Kentucky has also been a long-standing major center of the tobacco industry – both as a center of business and tobacco farming.
Today Kentucky's economy has expanded to importance in non-agricultural terms as well, especially in auto manufacturing, energy fuel production, and medical facilities.
Kentucky ranks 4th among U.S. states in the number of automobiles and trucks assembled.
The Chevrolet Corvette
, Cadillac XLR
(2004–2009), Ford Escape
, Ford Super Duty
trucks, Ford Expedition
, Lincoln Navigator
, Toyota Camry
, Toyota Avalon
, Toyota Solara
, Toyota Venza
and Lexus ES 350
are assembled in Kentucky.
Kentucky has historically been a major coal producer, but the coal industry has been in decline since the 1980s, and the number of people employed in the coal industry there dropped by more than half between 2011 and 2015.
As of 2010, 24% of electricity produced in the U.S. depended on either enriched uranium rods coming from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant
(the only domestic site of low-grade uranium enrichment),[needs update]
or from the 107,336 tons of coal extracted from the state's two coal fields (which combined produce 4% percent of the electricity in the United States).
Kentucky produces 95% of the world's supply of bourbon whiskey
, and the number of barrels of bourbon being aged in Kentucky (more than 5.7 million) exceeds the state's population.
Bourbon has been a growing market – with production of Kentucky bourbon rising 170 percent between 1999 and 2015.
In 2019 the state had more than fifty distilleries for bourbon production.
Kentucky exports reached a record $22.1 billion in 2012, with products and services going to 199 countries.
According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, the primary state agency in Kentucky responsible for creating new jobs and new investment in the state, new business investment in Kentucky in 2012 totaled nearly $2.7 billion, with the creation of more than 14,000 new jobs. One such investment was L'Oréal in Northern Kentucky, which added 200 jobs on top of the 280 already in existing facilities in Florence and Walton.
The total gross state product for 2019 Q1 was $213.313 billion.
Its per capita income was $25,888 in 2017.
An organization called the Institute for Truth in Accounting
estimated that the state government's debts exceeded its available assets by $26,300 per taxpayer as of 2011, ranking the state as having the 5th highest such debt burden in the nation.
As of March 2021, the state's unemployment rate is 5%.
In 2014 Kentucky was found to be the most affordable U.S. state in which to live.
There are six income tax
brackets, ranging from 2% to 6% of personal income.
The sales tax rate in Kentucky is 6%.
Kentucky has a broadly based classified property tax
system. All classes of property, unless exempted by the Constitution, are taxed by the state, although at widely varying rates.
Many of these classes are exempted from taxation by local government. Of the classes that are subject to local taxation, three have special rates set by the General Assembly
, one by the Kentucky Supreme Court
and the remaining classes are subject to the full local rate, which includes the tax rate set by the local taxing bodies plus all voted levies. Real property is assessed on 100% of the fair market value and property taxes are due by December 31. Once the primary source of state and local government revenue, property taxes now account for only about 6% of the Kentucky's annual General Fund revenues.
Until January 1, 2006, Kentucky imposed a tax on intangible personal property held by a taxpayer on January 1 of each year. The Kentucky intangible tax was repealed under House Bill 272.
Intangible property consisted of any property or investment that represents evidence of value or the right to value. Some types of intangible property included: bonds, notes, retail repurchase agreements
, accounts receivable, trusts, enforceable contracts sale of real estate (land contracts), money in hand, money in safe deposit boxes
, annuities, interests in estates, loans to stockholders, and commercial paper.
In December 2002, the Kentucky governor Paul Patton
unveiled the state slogan "It's that friendly",
in hope of drawing more people into the state based on the idea of southern hospitality
. This campaign was neither a failure nor a success.
Though it was meant to embrace southern values, many Kentuckians rejected the slogan as cheesy and ineffective.
It was quickly seen that the slogan did not encourage tourism as much as initially hoped for. So government decided to create a different slogan to embrace Kentucky as a whole while also encouraging more people to visit the Bluegrass.
In 2004, then Governor Ernie Fletcher
launched a comprehensive branding
campaign with the hope of making the state's $12–14 million advertising budget more effective.
The resulting "Unbridled Spirit" brand was the result of a $500,000 contract with New West, a Kentucky-based public relations advertising and marketing firm, to develop a viable brand and tag line.
The Fletcher administration aggressively marketed the brand in both the public and private sectors. Since that time, the "Welcome to Kentucky" signs at border areas have an "Unbridled Spirit" symbol on them.
The Horse Industry
Horse Racing has long been associated with Kentucky. Churchill Downs
, the home of the Derby, is a large venue with a capacity exceeding 165,000.
The track hosts multiple events throughout the year and is a significant draw to the city of Louisville. Keeneland Race Course
, in Lexington, hosts two major meets, the Spring and Fall running. Beyond hosting races Keeneland also hosts a significant horse auction drawing buyers from around the world. In 2019 $360 million was spent on the September Yearling sale.
The Kentucky Horse Park
hosts multiple events throughout the year, including international equestrian competitions and also offers horseback riding from April to October.
Kentucky maintains eight public four-year universities. There are two general tiers: major research institutions (the University of Kentucky
and the University of Louisville
) and regional universities, which encompass the remaining six schools. The regional schools have specific target counties that many of their programs are targeted towards (such as Forestry at Eastern Kentucky University
or Cave Management at Western Kentucky University
), however, most of their curriculum varies little from any other public university.
The University of Kentucky (UK) and the University of Louisville (UofL) have the highest academic rankings and admissions standards although the regional schools aren't without their national recognized departments – examples being Western Kentucky University's nationally ranked Journalism Department or Morehead State University
offering one of the nation's only Space Science degrees. UK is the flagship and land grant of the system and has agriculture extension services in every county. The two research schools split duties related to the medical field, UK handles all medical outreach programs in the eastern half of the state while UofL does all medical outreach in the state's western half.
There are 173 school districts and 1,233 public schools in Kentucky.
For the 2010 to 2011 school year, there were approximately 647,827 students enrolled in public school.
Kentucky is served by six major Interstate highways
, and I-75
), seven parkways
, and six bypasses and spurs (I-165
, and I-471
). The parkways were originally toll roads
, but on November 22, 2006, Governor Ernie Fletcher
ended the toll charges on the William H. Natcher Parkway
and the Audubon Parkway
, the last two parkways in Kentucky to charge tolls for access.
The related toll booths
have been demolished.
Ending the tolls some seven months ahead of schedule was generally agreed to have been a positive economic development for transportation in Kentucky. In June 2007, a law went into effect raising the speed limit on rural portions of Kentucky Interstates and parkways from 65 to 70 miles per hour (105 to 113 km/h).
As of 2004, there were approximately 2,640 miles (4,250 km) of railways in Kentucky, with about 65% of those being operated by CSX Transportation
was by far the most common cargo, accounting for 76% of cargo loaded and 61% of cargo delivered.
Other areas in Kentucky are reclaiming old railways in rail trail
projects. One such project is Louisville's Big Four Bridge
. When the bridge's Indiana approach ramps opened in 2014, completing the pedestrian connection across the Ohio River, the Big Four Bridge rail trail
became the second-longest pedestrian-only bridge in the world.
The longest pedestrian-only bridge is also found in Kentucky – the Newport Southbank Bridge
, popularly known as the "Purple People Bridge", connecting Newport
to Cincinnati, Ohio
Kentucky's primary airports include Louisville International Airport
(Standiford Field (SDF)) of Louisville
, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
(CVG) of Cincinnati
, and Blue Grass Airport
(LEX) in Lexington
. Louisville International Airport is home to UPS
, its international air-sorting hub.
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is the largest airport in the state, and is a focus city for passenger airline Delta Air Lines
and headquarters of its Delta Private Jets
. The airport is one of DHL Aviation
's three super-hubs, serving destinations throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, making it the 7th busiest airport in the U.S. and 36th in the world based on passenger and cargo operations.
CVG is also a focus city for Frontier Airlines
and is the largest O&D airport and base for Allegiant Air
, along with home to a maintenance for American Airlines
subsidiary PSA Airlines
and Delta Air Lines
subsidiary Endeavor Air
. There are also a number of regional airports scattered across the state.
On August 27, 2006, Blue Grass Airport was the site of a crash that killed 47 passengers and 2 crew members aboard a Bombardier CRJ
designated Comair Flight 191
, or Delta Air Lines Flight 5191, sometimes mistakenly identified by the press as Comair Flight 5191.
The lone survivor was the flight's first officer
, James Polehinke, who doctors determined to be brain damaged and unable to recall the crash at all.
As the state is bounded by two of the largest rivers in North America, water transportation has historically played a major role in Kentucky's economy. Louisville was a major port for steamships in the nineteenth century. Today, most barge traffic on Kentucky waterways consists of coal that is shipped from both the Eastern and Western Coalfields, about half of which is used locally to power many power plants located directly off the Ohio River
, with the rest being exported to other countries, most notably Japan.
Many of the largest ports in the United States are located in or adjacent to Kentucky, including:
As a state, Kentucky ranks 10th overall in port tonnage.
Law and government
Kentucky is one of four U.S. states
to officially use the term commonwealth.
The term was used for Kentucky as it had also been used by Virginia, from which Kentucky was created. The term has no particular significance in its meaning and was chosen to emphasize the distinction from the status of royal colonies as a place governed for the general welfare of the populace.
Kentucky was originally styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the act admitting it to the union since that is how it was referred to in Kentucky's first constitution.
The commonwealth term was used in citizen petitions submitted between 1786 and 1792 for the creation of the state.
It was also used in the title of a history of the state that was published in 1834 and was used in various places within that book in references to Virginia and Kentucky.
The other three states officially called "commonwealths" are Massachusetts
, and Virginia
. Puerto Rico
and the Northern Mariana Islands
are also formally commonwealths.
Kentucky is one of only five states that elect their state officials in odd-numbered years (the others being Louisiana
, New Jersey
, and Virginia
). Kentucky holds elections for these offices every four years in the years preceding Presidential election years. Thus, Kentucky held gubernatorial elections in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
The executive branch is headed by the governor
who serves as both head of state
and head of government
. The lieutenant governor
may or may not have executive authority depending on whether the person is a member of the Governor's cabinet
. Under the current Kentucky Constitution
, the lieutenant governor assumes the duties of the governor only if the governor is incapacitated. (Before 1992 the lieutenant governor assumed power any time the governor was out of the state.) The governor and lieutenant governor usually run on a single ticket (also per a 1992 constitutional amendment) and are elected to four-year terms. The current governor is Andy Beshear
, and the lieutenant governor is Jacqueline Coleman
. Both are Democrats
The executive branch is organized into the following "cabinets", each headed by a secretary who is also a member of the governor's cabinet:
The cabinet system was introduced in 1972 by Governor Wendell Ford
to consolidate hundreds of government entities that reported directly to the governor's office.
In November 2016, Republicans won control of the House for the first time since 1922, and currently have supermajorities in both the House and Senate.
The Kentucky Court of Justice is headed by the Chief Justice
of the Commonwealth. The chief justice is appointed by, and is an elected member of, the Supreme Court of Kentucky. The current chief justice is John D. Minton Jr.
Unlike federal judges, who are usually appointed, justices serving on Kentucky state courts are chosen by the state's populace in non-partisan elections.
Kentucky has also been known to have unusually high political candidacy age laws, especially compared to surrounding states. The origin of this is unknown, but it has been suggested[by whom?]
it has to do with the commonwealth tradition.
A 2008 study found that Kentucky's Supreme Court to be the least influential high court in the nation with its decisions rarely being followed by other states.
Presidential elections results
of the popular vote by county, 2016 presidential election
Where politics are concerned, Kentucky historically has been very competitive. It leaned toward the Democratic Party
since 1860, when the Whig Party dissolved. The southeastern region of the state aligned with the Union during the war and tended to support Republican candidates. The central and western portions of the state were heavily Democratic in the years leading to the Civil War and in the decades following the war. Kentucky was part of the Democratic Solid South in the second half of the nineteenth century and through the majority of the twentieth century.
Mirroring a broader national reversal of party makeup, the Kentucky Democratic Party of the 21st century primarily consists of liberal whites, African Americans, and other minorities. As of March 2020, 48.42% of the state's voters were officially registered as Democrats, and 42.75% were registered Republican
, who tend to be conservative whites. Some 8.83% were registered with some other political party
or as Independents.
Despite this, a majority of the state's voters have generally elected Republican candidates for federal office since around the turn of the 21st century.
From 1964 through 2004, Kentucky voted for the eventual winner of the election for President of the United States; however, in the 2008 election
the state lost its bellwether
status. Republican John McCain
won Kentucky, but he lost the national popular and electoral vote to Democrat Barack Obama
(McCain carried Kentucky 57% to 41%). 116 of Kentucky's 120 counties supported former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney
in the 2012 election while he lost to Barack Obama nationwide.
Voters in the Commonwealth supported the previous three Democratic candidates elected to the White House in the late 20th century, all from Southern states: Lyndon B. Johnson
) in 1964, Jimmy Carter
) in 1976, and Bill Clinton
) in 1992 and 1996. In 21st-century presidential elections, the state has become a Republican stronghold, supporting that party's presidential candidates by double-digit margins from 2000 through 2016. At the same time, voters have continued to elect Democratic candidates to state and local offices in many jurisdictions.
Kentucky is one of the most pro-life
states in the United States. A 2014 poll done by Pew Research Center
found that 57% of Kentucky's population thought that abortion
should be illegal in all/most cases, while only 36% thought that abortion should be legal in all/most cases.
Nevertheless, during the 19th century, Kentucky did receive a substantial number of German immigrants, who settled mostly in the Midwest, along the Ohio River primarily in Louisville, Covington and Newport.
Only Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia have higher German ancestry percentages than Kentucky among Census-defined Southern states, although Kentucky's percentage is closer to Arkansas and Virginia's than the previously named state's percentages. Scottish Americans
, English Americans
and Scotch-Irish Americans
have heavily influenced Kentucky culture, and are present in every part of the state.
As of the 1980s the only counties in the United States where more than half the population cited "English" as their only ancestry group were all in the hills of eastern Kentucky (and made up virtually every county in this region).
Kentucky was a slave state
, and black people once comprised over one-quarter of its population; however, it lacked the cottonplantation
system and never had the same high percentage of African Americans as most other slave states. While less than 8% of the total population is black, Kentucky has a relatively significant rural African American population in the Central and Western areas of the state.
is the largest Victorian Historic neighborhood in the United States.
The biggest day in American horse racing, the Kentucky Derby
, is preceded by the two-week Derby Festival
in Louisville. The Derby Festival features many events, including Thunder Over Louisville, the Pegasus Parade, the Great Steamboat Race, Fest-a-Ville, the Chow Wagon, BalloonFest, BourbonVille, and many others leading up to the big race.
The residents of tiny Benton
pay tribute to their favorite tuber, the sweet potato
, by hosting Tater Day
Residents of Clarkson
in Grayson County
celebrate their city's ties to the honey industry by celebrating the Clarkson Honeyfest.
The Clarkson Honeyfest is held the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday in September, and is the "Official State Honey Festival of Kentucky".
Renfro Valley, Kentucky
is home to Renfro Valley Entertainment Center and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and is known as "Kentucky's Country Music Capital", a designation given it by the Kentucky State Legislature in the late 1980s. The Renfro Valley Barn Dance was where Renfro Valley's musical heritage began, in 1939, and influential country music luminaries like Red Foley
, Homer & Jethro
, Lily May Ledford
& the Original Coon Creek Girls
, Martha Carson and many others have performed as regular members of the shows there over the years. The Renfro Valley Gatherin'
is today America's second-oldest continually broadcast radio program of any kind. It is broadcast on local radio station WRVK
and a syndicated network of nearly 200 other stations across the United States and Canada every week.
However, its depth lies in its signature sound – Bluegrass music
. Bill Monroe
, "The Father of Bluegrass", was born in the small Ohio County
town of Rosine
, while Ricky Skaggs
, Keith Whitley
, David "Stringbean" Akeman
, Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones
, Sonny and Bobby Osborne
, and Sam Bush
(who has been compared to Monroe) all hail from Kentucky. The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum
is located in Owensboro
while the annual Festival of the Bluegrass
is held in Lexington
Kentucky is also home to famed jazz
musician and pioneer, Lionel Hampton
legend W. C. Handy
singer Wilson Pickett
also spent considerable time in Kentucky. The R&B group Midnight Star
and Hip-Hop group Nappy Roots
were both formed in Kentucky, as were country acts The Kentucky Headhunters
, Montgomery Gentry
and Halfway to Hazard
, The Judds
, as well as Dove Award
-winning Christian groups Audio Adrenaline
(rock) and Bride
(metal). Heavy Rock band Black Stone Cherry
hails from rural Edmonton. Rock band My Morning Jacket
with lead singer and guitarist Jim James
originated out of Louisville, as well as bands Wax Fang
, White Reaper
. Rock bands Cage the Elephant
, Sleeper Agent
, and Morning Teleportation
are also from Bowling Green. The bluegrass groups Driftwood and Kentucky Rain, along with Nick Lachey
of the pop band 98 Degrees
are also from Kentucky. King Crimson
guitarist Adrian Belew
is from Covington
. Post rock
also hails from Louisville. Noted singer and actress Rosemary Clooney
was a native of Maysville
, her legacy being celebrated at the annual music festival bearing her name. Noted songwriter and actor Will Oldham
is from Louisville.
More recently in the limelight are country artists Chris Stapleton
, Sturgill Simpson
, Tyler Childers
, and Chris Knight
In eastern Kentucky, old-time music
carries on the tradition of ancient ballads and reels developed in historical Appalachia.
Kentucky has played a major role in Southern and American literature, producing works that often celebrate the working class, rural life, nature, and explore issues of class, extractive economy, and family. Major works from the state include Uncle Tom's Cabin
(1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe
, widely seen as one of the impetuses for the American Civil War; The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come
(1908) by John Fox Jr.
, which was the first novel to sell a million copies in the United States; All the King's Men
by Robert Penn Warren
(1946), rated as the 36th best English-language novel of the 20th century
; The Dollmaker
(1954) by Harriette Arnow
; Night Comes to the Cumberlands
(1962) by Harry Caudill
, which contributed to initiating the U.S. Government's War on poverty
, and others.
The Hot Brown
Kentucky's cuisine is generally similar to traditional southern cooking, although in some areas of the state it can blend elements of both the South and Midwest.
One original Kentucky dish is called the Hot Brown
, a dish normally layered in this order: toasted bread, turkey, bacon, tomatoes and topped with mornay sauce
. It was developed at the Brown Hotel
The Pendennis Club
in Louisville is the birthplace of the Old Fashioned
cocktail. Also, western Kentucky is known for its own regional style of barbecue. Central Kentucky is the birthplace of Beer Cheese
As in many states, especially those without major league professional sports teams, college athletics are prominent. This is especially true of the state's three Division I Football Bowl Subdivision
(FBS) programs, including the Kentucky Wildcats
, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
, and the Louisville Cardinals
. The Wildcats
, and Cardinals
are among the most tradition-rich college men's basketball teams in the United States, combining for 11 National Championships and 24 NCAA Final Fours;
all three are high on the lists of total all-time wins, wins per season, and average wins per season.
Ohio Valley Wrestling
in Louisville was the primary location for training and rehab for WWE
professional wrestlers from 2000 until 2008, when WWE moved its contracted talent to Florida Championship Wrestling. OVW later became the primary developmental territory for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
(TNA) from 2011 to 2013.
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Surveys and reference
- Bodley, Temple and Samuel M. Wilson. History of Kentucky 4 vols. (1928).
- Caudill, Harry M., Night Comes to the Cumberlands (1963). ISBN 0-316-13212-8
- Channing, Steven. Kentucky: A Bicentennial History (1977).
- Clark, Thomas Dionysius. A History of Kentucky (many editions, 1937–1992).
- Collins, Lewis. History of Kentucky (1880).
- Gunther, John (1947). "Romance and Reality in Kentucky". Inside U.S.A. New York, London: Harper & Brothers. pp. 640–652.
- Harrison, Lowell H. and James C. Klotter. A New History of Kentucky (1997).
- Kleber, John E. et al. The Kentucky Encyclopedia (1992), standard reference history. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0
- Klotter, James C. Our Kentucky: A Study of the Bluegrass State (2000), high school text
- Lucas, Marion Brunson and Wright, George C. A History of Blacks in Kentucky 2 vols. (1992).
- World-Wide Web Resources – Notable Kentucky African Americans
- Share, Allen J. Cities in the Commonwealth: Two Centuries of Urban Life in Kentucky (1982).
- Wallis, Frederick A. and Hambleton Tapp. A Sesqui-Centennial History of Kentucky 4 vols. (1945).
- Ward, William S., A Literary History of Kentucky (1988) (ISBN 0-87049-578-X).
- WPA, Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State (1939), classic guide.
- Yater, George H. (1987). Two Hundred Years at the Fall of the Ohio: A History of Louisville and Jefferson County (2nd ed.). Filson Club, Incorporated. ISBN 978-0-9601072-3-0.
Specialized scholarly studies
Bakeless, John. Daniel Boone, Master of the Wilderness (1989)
- Blakey, George T. Hard Times and New Deal in Kentucky, 1929–1939 (1986)
- Coulter, E. Merton. The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky (1926)
- Davis, Alice. "Heroes: Kentucky's Artists from Statehood to the New Millennium" (2004)
- Ellis, William E. The Kentucky River (2000).
- Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone (1993)
Fenton, John H. Politics in the Border States: A Study of the Patterns of Political Organization, and Political Change, Common to the Border States: Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri (1957)
- Harlow, Luke E. Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830–1880. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- Ireland, Robert M. The County in Kentucky History (1976)
- Klotter, James C.; Harrison, Lowell; Ramage, James; Roland, Charles; Taylor, Richard; Bush, Bryan S; Fugate, Tom; Hibbs, Dixie; Matthews, Lisa; Moody, Robert C.; Myers, Marshall; Sanders, Stuart; McBride, Stephen (2005). Rose, Jerlene (ed.). Kentucky's Civil War 1861–1865. Clay City, Kentucky: Back Home in Kentucky, Inc. ISBN 978-0-9769231-1-4.
- Kelly, Andrew, Ed. "Kentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture". Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2015. ISBN 978-0-8131-5567-8
- Klotter, James C. Kentucky: Portrait in Paradox, 1900–1950 (1992)
- Pearce, John Ed. Divide and Dissent: Kentucky Politics, 1930–1963 (1987)
- Remini, Robert V. Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (1991).
Sonne, Niels Henry. Liberal Kentucky, 1780–1828 (1939)
- Tapp, Hambleton and James C. Klotter. Kentucky Decades of Discord, 1865–1900 (1977)
Townsend, William H. Lincoln and the Bluegrass: Slavery and Civil War in Kentucky (1955)
- Waldrep, Christopher Night Riders: Defending Community in the Black Patch, 1890–1915 (1993) tobacco wars
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